Do You Really Need to Detox?
Detox is a buzz word that’s been floating around for a while. Usually linked to a ridiculously limited diet and/or the use of ridiculously expensive products, all claiming to “cleanse” your body of mysterious unidentified toxins. In today’s blog we’ll see whether we really need to detox or not. And I’ll expose the sources of the mysterious toxins!
The good news is, your body is perfectly equipped to eliminate toxins all by itself. There is no need for special diets or expensive products to do so. Your body has a sophisticated elimination system which involves the liver, kidneys, digestive system, skin and lungs.
That being said, it is possible to enhance your body’s natural detoxification system. Our elimination organs need to be healthy and functioning well, so they can effectively do their job and eliminate any unwanted substances. They also need to be fuelled with the right nutrients, so they can do their job. Fill our bodies with alcohol, sugar and processed foods then it makes sense that they aren’t going o work as well as they should.
Let’s do some myth busting about the whole detox and cleansing idea. I’ll share my top (evidence based) ways to get your body’s detoxification system working more efficiently – without the cost of a cleanse or a program!
Common Detox Myths
Popular detox diets promise to eliminate toxins from your body, improve your health and promote weight loss. This is where the expensive extras come in, usually in the form of laxatives, diuretics, vitamins, minerals, teas and other foods thought to have detoxifying properties.
So first up, what are these unnamed toxins?
This is where I generally get the giggles.
From a clinical perspective, toxins refer to pollutants, synthetic chemicals, heavy metals and processed foods, all of which can negatively affect our health.
Where popular diets miss the mark is by never identifying the actual toxins they aim to remove, nor are they matched with the mechanism by which they are supposed to eliminate them. There’s also not a shred of evidence that any of these diets actually work for toxin elimination nor for sustainable weight loss. Hint – it’s water and you’ll regain any weight as soon as you start eating again.
People who go on cleanses or detoxes generally do feel better, at least in the short term, mostly due to the fact that they’ve stopped drinking and eating as much sugar, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods. These foods are usually replaced these with more water and more fruits and veggies.
Rocket science I know….
It’s got nothing at all to do with the expensive “detox” products or because they are necessarily detoxing anything more than they normally would.
They are just eating better.
So, while detox diets or cleanses don’t do anything that your body can’t already do, there are lots of simple ways to enhance your body’s natural detoxification system.
9 Ways to Naturally and Simply Enhance Detoxification
Make Better Choices Every Day
Eat sulphur containing foods such as garlic, onions and broccoli every day to enhance the excretion of heavy metals such as cadmium. Sulphur rich foods also help enhance the function of glutathione, which is a major antioxidant produced in your body and is essential for detoxification.
Try a quality concentrated organic greens powder which contains broccoli sprouts, barley grass, cracked chlorella, coriander and spirulina. These can help the elimination of heavy metals.
Flavour your foods with fresh herbs and spices. Fresh herbs such as coriander can enhance the excretion of certain toxins such as heavy metals like lead and chemicals including phthalates and insecticides.
Choose natural cleaning products such as vinegar and baking soda, which can reduce your exposure to potentially toxic chemicals.
Use natural personal and skin care such as deodorants, make ups, moisturisers, shampoos and tampons to reduce your exposure to chemicals.
Drink More Water
Water is more than a thirst quencher. It helps to aid digestion and the absorption of nutrients, it helps regulate your body temperature and lubricate your joints. Water helps in the detoxification process by removing waste products from your blood and excreting them from your body in the form of urination, breathing and sweating.
Stay hydrated and aim for 2+ litres of water per day.
Reduce Sugar and Processed Foods
It’s well known that excess sugar, soft drinks and processed foods are linked to chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
These diseases then further reduce your body’s ability to detoxify itself by damaging the organs involved. For example Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD – approx. 30% of adult Australians and 15% of kids) and diabetes damages both the liver and the kidneys.
Choose whole foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables over processed foods and sugary soft drinks.
Your body recognises alcohol as a poison, so your liver prioritises breaking this down so it can be eliminated quickly from your body. The issue then is your liver is too busy processing alcohol to carry out all of its other jobs such as detoxifying and filtering other wastes and toxins. This includes excreting out hormones such as oestrogen, which to hormone imbalances and other health problems.
Limiting or abstaining from alcohol is the best way to keep your liver functioning well. If you do choose to drink, aim for a minimum of 4 alcohol free days per week and limit drinks to 2 at any one time.
Eat More Fibre
Fibre has so many important jobs that it really deserves its own blog.
Firstly, it helps keep everything moving (like a big broom) through our digestive systems ready for elimination (aka our poop).
Fibre is also full of prebiotics, which feeds our good gut bacteria, keeping our immune and mental health healthy. This decreases our risk of disease and inflammation.
Fibre also keeps us feeling fuller for longer which stabilises our blood sugar levels and reduces our risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Fibre rich foods include your leafy greens, bananas, onions, garlic, asparagus, oats, beans and legumes.
Get More Sleep
When we sleep, we allow our brain to reorganise and recharge, as well as to remove toxic waste by products that have accumulated during the day. If we aren’t getting enough quality sleep, your body doesn’t have the time to do its job and toxins build up and can affect several aspects of health.
Poor sleep has been linked to stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
It’s important to adopt a sleep routine and good sleep habits…including staying off your screens an hour or two before bed.
Increase Your Antioxidants
Antioxidants protect your cells against damage by molecules known as free radicals.
An excess of free radicals leads to oxidative stress, which has been implicated in dementia, mental health, heart disease, liver disease, asthma and certain types of cancer.
Alcohol, tobacco smoke, a poor diet and exposure to chemicals and pollutants can produce excessive free radicals and impact your organs ability to detoxify.
Antioxidants include Vitamins A, C, E, selenium, lycopene and leuitin and are found in many foods such as berries, fruits, nuts, cacao, vegetables, spices, tomato pastes and green teas. Eat a variety of colours and types of foods to ensure a good intake of anti-oxidants.
Move Your Body
Regular physical activity stimulates your blood flow, lowers inflammation and allows your body’s detoxification systems to work properly and protect against disease.
A minimum of 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise such as brisk walking (i.e. get puffed and raise a sweat) or 75-150 minutes of vigourous activity such as running will support your whole body, including your detoxification system.
Reduce Your Sodium
A diet high in sodium (aka too much packaged and processed foods, sauces and drinks, regardless of whether they are sweet or savoury) can increase water retention.
Increasing your water intake can help flush the excess fluids through your body. It’s these excess fluids that can cause bloating and that tight clothing feeling. This is due to consuming too much salt and not enough water, your body releases an anti-diuretic hormone that prevents you from urinating and releasing waste products, compromising detoxification.
Potassium counter balances the effects of sodium so along with more water include potassium rich foods such as bananas, spinach, kidney beans and potatoes.
The Bottom Line
Your body has its own highly efficient detoxification system and you can improve your ability to detoxify and enhance your overall health by staying hydrated, eating more antioxidants, getting active and drinking less.
Save your money and spend it on fruit and veggies instead!